Famous Behind the Lens

Memories from a Franklin Photo News Photographer



Written by Sally Sumner

Memories from a Franklin Photo News Photographer

The feedback we had on last month’s Franklin Photo News story was amazing. What an incredible feat to scan all the pages of a magazine that 40 years ago was the social media of the day. The stories that have flown in about the people and events that are featured in the magazine have been both poignant, fascinating and humorous. Imagine my delight then, when one of the original photographers, Barbara McGrath (nee Watkins) popped into the office to share some of her memories after seeing the article.

Barbara’s photographs started appearing in the Photo News in December 1968. She had always wanted to have a career in photo journalism but was told “it was simply not an option for a young girl’ by her college career advisor, so she took up an office job in Waiuku. Happening across the offices of Franklin Photo news in the main street, she went in and asked owner Ivan McLellan if he had any jobs going. Ivan took her details and rang her three weeks later “he said to me, to make an impression in this world, you have to be different, he handed me the keys to a company car, gave me a camera and showed me where to take photos and left me to it.

I would travel all over the area with a list of things to take photographs of, I would record all the details and then over a two period someone would help me type all the details up, we would print the black and white photos, lay up the pages and send them off to be printed.”

“A week later, Ivan and I would meet the bus at the Bombay Crossroads, all under the bus would be filled with the new magazines, he would go one way, I the other and on the Friday night we would deliver the bundles to as many places as we could, because people were literally queuing for them, to see if there were in there.”

The deliveries of the magazines become a much-anticipated way for people in the area to connect and to catch up on the social events of the day, very much like social media today.

“I had a little blue Fiat Bambina, people used to call it ‘the flying flea’, because the only way for it to get anywhere fast was to just put your foot flat to the floor!”

The months Barbara spend taking photographing for the Franklin Photo News were full of fond memories, she found there was always something different to be taking photos of, even the group of lads who seemed to be at most social occasions, every month and always gave the wrong names!

Barbara moved on as many young kiwis do to travel and work overseas including as a personnel consultant, an industry she couldn’t work in part time after starting a family.

Not one to avoid being busy, her next challenge came when her husband who was in the stationery industry, turned down an offer to market Bic printed pens. “within 3 years, I was one of the biggest sellers of Bic printed pens within New Zealand, I then started a business in promotional products and that is what I have been doing for the last 27 years”

Barbara has sold her big company, but still dabbles part time partly because of her connections with Franklin Photo News

“They are very similar industries really, photo news and romotional products, It’s about talking to people, listening to what they want, knowing what you can do and then putting two and two together.”